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  Weekly Feature (January 23, 2005)

Four Tools for Better Writing
's Weekly Feature



How can I be a better writer? It's a question students have asked me for many years. The answer is not a simple one, especially since, oftentimes, a student looks to me for a solution, a formula, a magic trick.

There is no magic involved. Writing is real work, hard and strenuous, frustrating and demoralizing, beautiful and uplifting. All without any real guarantee of success. I know this because I am a writer.

I use my tools to try (and I do mean try) to reach others in print. When successful—and believe me when I share my writing in classes I am not always a success—there is no better feeling in the world. Success creates a kind of sound, a sigh or collective expiration of breath, that lets me know that my words have had an effect on others.

So, what tools do I recommend? Here are a few (though offered without, as usual, any guarantee) that might, just might, help one of you become a little bit better as a writer one day.

Tool One: Patience

Writing is slow work. Be patient and expect no miracles.

Tool Two: Perseverance

Writing is no place for a quitter. Come back to your writing repeatedly. See it in a new light. Give the words a chance.

Tool Three: Trust

Your reader reads. Use words to reach that reader. Trust them to read well but make it easy for them, please. You win more trust if you show a reader you are careful with words.

Tool Four: Resourcefulness

The writer is often dissatisfied with a word, goes looking for a better one, and tinkers with sentences as much as possible. Where can I find a new word, the writer will ask? Can I imitate that sentence? There is no end to the resources of the written word!

If you are interested further in my opinions on writing, view my Writing Tips, notes from my Writing Practice Tutorials, and my Advanced Composition Worksheet Archive.

Thank you for reading (and writing)!


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